Archive for Sunday, April 11, 1999


April 11, 1999


The Kanwaka Literary Club will mark its 100th anniversary with a luncheon Thursday at Stull United Methodist Church.

The ladies of Kanwaka Literary Club have shared a century of Easter Sundays and Thanksgiving Thursdays.

For 100 years -- every other Thursday since mid-April 1899 -- they have traveled to meetings in buggies or sedans or four-wheel-drives. They've worried over wars and the Depression and collectively wondered "What is this world coming to?"

They've rejoiced in the births of babies and grieved at members' passings. They've laughed together and shared their hardships.

Kanwaka Literary Club was formed 100 years ago by three women -- Mrs. J.R. Topping, Miss May Etta Richardson and Miss Leonora Ricker -- who had migrated from the New England states with their families to settle the rugged land around Lawrence and were in need of intellectual and conversational stimulation.

"It was first the Summer Literary Club," Margaret Wulfkuhle said. "They traveled by buggy, and met from May to November. Now we meet from September to May.

"I joined in 1928, but I've been coming to meetings since I was 6 months old."

Wulfkuhle's grandmother, Mrs. Osgood Colman, was an original member of the literary club. Wulfkuhle's mother, Mrs. Asa Colman, was a member. Wulfkuhle's daughters -- Virginia Wulfkuhle, an archeologist for the state of Kansas, and Linda Cecchini, a librarian living in Wisconsin -- are also members.

"When Linda started school, she told the teacher she would go every day but Thursday because she said 'That's my club day,'" Wulfkuhle said with a laugh.

The rules of the Kanwaka Literary Club, which has a membership of about 25 women, are simple:

  • They meet in each other's homes, and rotate responsibility for the meetings' programs.
  • Members must be voted in.
  • Girls are eligible to be members when they complete the ninth grade.
  • Dues are $2 a year.

Ruth Ice was voted in as a member in 1975 and has been the club's historian ever since.

"I keep the can," she said.

For years, club members used a five-gallon cherry can as the depository for their records and photographs. Today, they've graduated to using a bread box, and members have seen that the club's secretary books from 1908 to 1991 have been placed on microfilm at the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka.

"No doubt we are one of the oldest rural literary groups in Kansas," Wulfkuhle said.

Irene Sperry, who is in her mid-80s and likely the oldest member of the group, said she comes to almost every meeting.

"There's communication between us and there's always an interesting program," she said. "That keeps somebody like me alive."

But times are changing.

Some of the club's younger members have moved away. Others nearby have careers, busy family schedules and less time to attend meetings.

"Because I work, it's hard to get here," said Robin Holladay, whose mother, Jean Etherton, is the current club president. "I try to come on Founders Day and holidays. My New Year's resolution was to come more often."

Lori Gruver, who lives in Centropolis, makes it to meetings about twice a year.

"I used to come when we were kids," she said, adding that her mother, Mary Stauffer, her grandmother, Irene Skinner, and her sister, Beverly Wells, are members. "I come now when I can.

"I wonder what's going to happen when all these ladies are gone. Most of us have careers. The way things have changed, it's hard to tell what's going to happen to the club."

Wulfkuhle believes the club will survive for a number of years because it continues to bring a sense of belonging -- a sense of community -- to its members.

Marcella Anderson agrees.

"We're such a close group," she said.

Kanwaka Literary Club will mark its 100th anniversary during its annual Founders Day luncheon at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Stull United Methodist Church.

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is


Here are some of the programs presented at the Kanwaka Literary Club meetings, according to records filed with the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka.

  • April 1908: Sketch of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's life and readings from "Evangeline" and "The Courtship of Miles Standish."
  • April 1909: Reading of an article on the power of imagination.
  • April 27, 1911: Reading from a Hampton's magazine article on the suffrage movement and another article titled "Why I Want the Ballot."
  • Nov. 20, 1913: Review of the book "Black Rock," by Ralph Conner.
  • April 21, 1921: Review of articles on "the silk culture" and the cotton industry.
  • May 1921: Review of the book "Mr. Britling Sees It Through," by H.G. Wells.
  • June 1921: Presentation of a paper titled "The Intelligence Test," followed by a discussion on how the test can be advantageous for military and educational purposes.
  • May 2, 1935: Presentation on the life of humorist Will Rogers.
  • April 16, 1941: Talk on wartime rationing.
  • April 4, 1946: Review of "The Egg and I," by Betty McDonald, and a talk on cancer.
  • Feb. 26, 1948: Review of "The Golden Voice," by M.W. Marbury.
  • Sept. 4, 1952: Reports on members' trips to Canada and Mexico and sharing of wildlife photographs.
  • April 1956: Review of "The Imperial Woman," by Pearl S. Buck.
  • Feb. 4, 1960: Report on the lives of eight "famous spinsters," including Queen Elizabeth I and Florence Nightingale.
  • March 12, 1964: Presentation of a paper on "the children of the White House" that particularly focused on John F. Kennedy Jr. and his relationship with his father and the White House staff.
  • May 7, 1964: Reviews of "I Was Dancing," by Edwin O'Connor, and "The Ugly Dachshund," by G.B. Stern.
  • Oct. 17, 1968: Film produced by the telephone company, "Decorating Unlimited," on how telephones could be an element of interior design.
  • April 1970: Presentation by a Headquarters representative that shocked members when they learned that Lawrence was "a hub of drug trafficking."
  • March 4, 1976: Reading of "Snowbound," by John Greenleaf Whittier.
  • May 12, 1977: Review of "Laura," a book by Donald Zochart about Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  • Sept. 18, 1986: Program on witchcraft.
  • Feb. 16, 1989: Review of "Caddie Woodlawn," the 1936 winner of the Newberry Award for children's literature.
  • April 5, 1990: Presentation on mystery writer Agatha Christie.

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